Agrivoltaics

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Agrivoltaics combines solar power generation with agricultural production on the same land. The shade from solar panels can benefit certain crops, while the land simultaneously generates clean energy.

Impact on climate action

Agrivoltaics within Utility Scale Solar PV advance climate action by promoting dual land use, combining solar energy production with agricultural practices. By optimizing land use efficiency, reducing soil erosion, and enhancing carbon sequestration, this innovation supports sustainable food production while accelerating the transition to renewable energy, mitigating climate change impacts.

Underlying
Technology

Agrivoltaics integrates solar power generation with agricultural production on the same land. This involves optimizing the placement and design of solar panels to allow for sufficient sunlight penetration for crop growth. The key concepts driving agrivoltaics include:

  • Light Management: Agrivoltaic systems must balance the need for sunlight for both solar panels and crops. This involves optimizing the spacing, height, and angle of solar panels to ensure that crops receive enough light for photosynthesis.
  • Crop Selection: Certain crops are better suited for agrivoltaic systems than others. Shade-tolerant crops, such as lettuce, spinach, and some herbs, can thrive under solar panels.
  • Microclimate Modification: Solar panels can create a microclimate beneath them, altering temperature, humidity, and wind patterns. This can be beneficial for some crops, reducing water stress and improving growth.
  • Land Use Efficiency: Agrivoltaics maximizes land use by generating clean energy and producing food on the same area of land. This is particularly beneficial in regions with limited land availability.

TRL : 5-6

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Semi-Transparent Solar Panels: These panels allow some sunlight to pass through to the crops below, while still generating electricity.
  • Adjustable Mounting Systems: Solar panels can be mounted on adjustable structures, allowing farmers to optimize the angle and height of the panels to suit different crops and seasons.
  • Crop-Specific Agrivoltaic Systems: Researchers and startups are developing agrivoltaic systems tailored to specific crops and agricultural practices, maximizing the benefits for both energy generation and food production.
  • Data-Driven Management Platforms: Data analytics platforms can be used to monitor crop growth, soil conditions, and energy generation in agrivoltaic systems, enabling farmers to optimize management practices.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Solar-Powered Agriculture
  • Renewable Energy Integration in Agriculture
  • Maximizing Land Efficiency with Agrivoltaics
  • Advanced Light Management Techniques
  • Crop Selection for Agrivoltaic Systems
  • Microclimate Optimization for Crop Growth
  • Tailored Agrivoltaic Solutions for Different Crops
  • Global Initiatives in Agrivoltaics
  • Economic Viability of Agrivoltaic Systems

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Pacifico Energy:
    • Technology Enhancement: Pacifico Energy specializes in developing and operating utility-scale solar projects, including those incorporating agrivoltaic systems. Their agrivoltaic solutions involve integrating solar panels with agricultural activities, such as crop cultivation or grazing, to maximize land use efficiency and promote sustainable land management practices.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Pacifico Energy stands out for its focus on renewable energy development and its commitment to innovative solutions that address both energy and agricultural needs. By combining solar energy generation with agricultural production, they offer a holistic approach to land use that benefits both the environment and local communities.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Pacifico Energy serves utility companies, agricultural organizations, and local communities seeking sustainable energy solutions and land management practices. Their agrivoltaic projects provide renewable energy generation while supporting agricultural activities, enhancing food security, and promoting rural development.
  • ENGIE:
    • Technology Enhancement: ENGIE is a global energy company that offers a wide range of renewable energy solutions, including agrivoltaic systems. Their agrivoltaic projects involve installing solar panels on agricultural land or structures, allowing for dual land use and enhancing land productivity while generating clean energy.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: ENGIE stands out for its extensive experience and expertise in renewable energy development and its commitment to sustainability and innovation. They leverage their global presence and diverse portfolio of renewable energy solutions to address the energy transition challenges while promoting environmental stewardship and social responsibility.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: ENGIE serves a broad range of customers, including utilities, corporations, governments, and communities, seeking renewable energy solutions and sustainable development strategies. Their agrivoltaic projects offer dual benefits of clean energy generation and agricultural land use optimization, contributing to climate change mitigation and rural development.
  • Iberdrola:
    • Technology Enhancement: Iberdrola is a leading renewable energy company with a focus on solar, wind, and hydroelectric power generation. Their agrivoltaic initiatives involve integrating solar panels into agricultural landscapes to optimize land use, enhance biodiversity, and promote sustainable agriculture practices.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Iberdrola stands out for its long-standing commitment to renewable energy and its leadership in promoting innovative solutions for a sustainable future. They invest in research and development to advance agrivoltaic technology and collaborate with local communities and stakeholders to implement projects that deliver social, environmental, and economic benefits.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Iberdrola serves utility companies, governments, agricultural organizations, and communities seeking renewable energy solutions and sustainable land management practices. Their agrivoltaic projects offer a holistic approach to energy generation and land use optimization, supporting local economies and ecosystems while reducing carbon emissions.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • University of California, Davis:
    • Research Focus: UC Davis conducts pioneering research on Agrivoltaics, exploring the integration of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems with agricultural land use, aiming to enhance land productivity, water efficiency, and renewable energy generation.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves interdisciplinary collaboration between experts in agriculture, renewable energy, and environmental science to develop integrated farming systems that optimize resource use and ecosystem services.
    • End-use Applications: Their work has applications in sustainable agriculture, renewable energy deployment, and climate change adaptation. For example, they’re researching shade-tolerant crops and agroforestry practices suitable for cultivation under solar panels, evaluating the microclimate effects of solar PV arrays on soil moisture retention, crop evapotranspiration, and pest management, and quantifying the economic and environmental benefits of agrivoltaic systems compared to conventional land use practices.
  • University of Arizona:
    • Research Focus: The University of Arizona is a leading institution in Agrivoltaics research, investigating the synergies between solar energy production and agricultural production in arid and semi-arid regions.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves field experiments, modeling studies, and stakeholder engagement to assess the feasibility and scalability of agrivoltaic systems under different climatic and agronomic conditions.
    • End-use Applications: Their work finds applications in water conservation, food security, and rural development. For instance, they’re researching innovative irrigation strategies and water-saving technologies for irrigated crops grown in conjunction with solar PV arrays, exploring the potential of dual-use land management practices for mitigating land degradation and enhancing soil health, and collaborating with farmers, utilities, and policymakers to develop incentive programs and regulatory frameworks that support the adoption of agrivoltaic systems at scale.
  • Wageningen University & Research:
    • Research Focus: Wageningen University & Research is at the forefront of Agrivoltaics research, investigating the ecological, economic, and social dimensions of integrating solar energy production with agricultural activities.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves conducting field trials, socio-economic assessments, and policy analysis to identify barriers and opportunities for mainstreaming agrivoltaic systems in diverse agricultural landscapes.
    • End-use Applications: Their work has applications in land use planning, climate resilience, and rural livelihoods. For example, they’re researching innovative agrivoltaic designs that optimize light transmission, airflow, and crop productivity while minimizing water consumption and soil erosion, assessing the environmental impacts and carbon sequestration potential of agrivoltaic systems compared to conventional land use practices, and engaging with local communities and indigenous stakeholders to co-design and implement sustainable land management strategies that integrate renewable energy and food production goals.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Commercially, utility-scale solar farms integrate raised PV panels with compatible crops like vegetables, fruits, or herbs. Agrivoltaics optimizes land productivity by providing shade, reducing water evaporation, and mitigating temperature extremes. Farmers benefit from additional income streams and reduced risk from crop failures. Utility companies harness solar energy to generate electricity while promoting sustainable land use. Regulatory frameworks encourage the adoption of agrivoltaic systems, balancing energy production and agricultural needs while minimizing environmental impact.